Education & Prevention
Preventing Cardiovascular Disease
Many forms of cardiovascular disease can be prevented through lifestyle changes and routine health screenings. We encourage you to learn about your risk factors and act on them to improve your heart health. Our cardiovascular team is here to help you chart a path to a healthy heart.
Reducing Your Risk for Cardiac and Vascular Disease
Keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy is important to your long-term well being. When they are not working properly, serious conditions may develop including heart attack, heart failure, sudden death and stroke.
The good news is that cardiovascular diseases can often be prevented. Call us today to schedule a healthy heart check-up: 1.855.ONE.HEART (1.855.663.4327)
Risk Evaluation in Action for Cardiovascular Health (REACH®)
Advocate Lutheran General Hospital has developed an innovative program to reduce the risks and consequences of cardiovascular disease. The REACH® program helps improve the heart health of patients through education, lifestyle changes, medication and risk-reduction therapies.
Learn more about our REACH® program.
Cardiovascular Risk Factors
Many people are not aware of risk factors such as:
- Metabolic syndrome
- Increased waist circumference
- High cholesterol
- Other factors including age, gender, family history
Risk factors that you can control include:
- Managing your blood pressure
- Watching your cholesterol levels
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Being physically active
- Avoiding smoking
- Limiting your alcohol consumption
- Reducing stress
Unpreventable risks include previous heart attack, a family history of heart disease, aging, gender and race. With these risk factors it is important to see your doctor regularly to check for early signs of diabetes or changes in blood pressure or cholesterol which can signal onset of heart disease.
We encourage you to follow up on routine check-ups and screenings to help you live well for years to come. Advocate Lutheran General Hospital can help. Call us at 1.855.ONE.HEART (1.855.663.4327) for routine checkups and screenings.
Key Factors to Keep in Check
Staying active, eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight are part of a heart healthy lifestyle. Here are a few more important facts to know.
- Smoking tobacco: Not only does it increase the risk of arteriosclerosis (condition in which an artery wall thickens as the result of a build-up of fatty materials such as cholesterol), but nicotine also causes blood vessels to constrict and further limits the already reduced blood flow.
- Diet: Fatty or fried foods, egg yolks, red meat, dairy products containing fat and plant oils, such as coconut and palm oil, increase cholesterol and can increase your risk of heart disease. Corn and safflower oils or olive oil are healthier options.
- Blood pressure: Patients with high blood pressure may not have any symptoms. Have your blood pressure checked regularly and controlled with medication if needed.
- Cholesterol levels: Certain types of cholesterol can build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain and lead to a heart attack or stroke. Have your cholesterol checked regularly and controlled with medication if needed.
Blood Vessels and Your Leg and Foot Health
Your lower legs can also be affected by problems with your blood vessels, or vascular system. Blood clots and decreased blood flow to lower legs can lead to serious complications.
Your doctor will provide detailed guidance if you are affected by conditions such as deep vein thrombosis or arterial disease. Here are some general suggestions, even if you haven't been diagnosed with vascular disease:
- When traveling in the car or on a plane, take frequent breaks to walk around.
- Dehydration, or not enough water in your system, increases thickness of the blood, produces sluggish blood flow, and increases risk of clots. Alcoholic beverages can also cause dehydration.
- Wear compression stockings if you have had previous deep venous clots, if you have varicose veins or if you are pregnant.
- If you take birth control pills, refrain from smoking.
- Simple walking is an effective way to condition your muscles and improve blood flow.
- When blood flow to the legs is decreased, small injuries to the feet or toes may result in serious infections, sores or tissue death (gangrene). Protect your foot health by:
- Wearing proper fitting shoes
- Avoiding bare feet
- Practicing good hygiene
- Washing and drying feet thoroughly
- Avoiding exposure to extreme heat or cold
- Seeking supervised treatment for any infection or ulcers of the foot
People with metabolic syndrome or diabetes are as high-risk for a heart attack or stroke as someone who has already had a heart attack or stroke.
Metabolic syndrome is diagnosed by a group of risk factors that include cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, waist circumference and high blood sugar. Individuals with metabolic syndrome are at increased risk for developing diabetes.
It's especially important to identify patients with these conditions. Many are unaware that they are at risk for heart disease and so do not take preventive steps.
Learn more about cardiovascular disease and how to prevent it at our Online Health Encyclopedia.